Drowning in Beauty

May we all have a happier new year.

Don’t know whether you remember I was running away for Christmas to visit my friend in Arizona and take a trip to Moab in Utah. Well, I did, and there was very little evidence of Christmas in either place. I hardly even thought about ritual abuse. Mission accomplished!

Moab was incredible. The first day there we went for a drive, and it was so beautiful I burst into tears. There were all these red rocks on either side of the road towering hundreds of feet above us. Hundreds. I am not exaggerating. The town is in a little valley and every place you look, 360 degrees, there were red rocks.

This is high desert country, with elevations between 4000 and 7000 feet. Outside of town you look across barren ground broken only by sparse grasses and small shrubs. The ground is reddish because the soil is made of tiny particles eroded from those gigantic rocks. The vegetation was brown because the rainy season hadn’t started; however there was enough water and nourishment for rabbits and deer and other critters. It reminded me of driving through the Australian desert and seeing Ularu soaring up in the middle of nowhere. Except here, Ularu was all around us.

Christmas Day, we stayed in out little cabin, loafed, read magazines, and watched the snow fall gently around us. That was the only day it snowed and the rest of the time we drove through the La Sal mountains, Arches National Park and, on the last day, Monument Valley. We shared the road with deer, who were fearless, and cattle, who were just as fearless when we leaned on the horn. We saw ravens and buzzards and some tumbleweed, even though it was the wrong time of year. I was in heaven.

I did none of the driving, so I felt very well taken care of. We had been good friends for several years but we had never spend that much uninterrupted time together. We both are in chronic pain and when we are tired we get sort of grumpy. So much time together could have been a recipe for disaster, but we both were understanding and forgiving. The last couple of days were a real treat – we went over our ways of communicating and figured out patterns that cause misunderstandings. I’ve only done that in therapy, and that is pretty one-sided. I learned so much about her and about myself; when I am not clear, when I jump to conclusions about the other person, when she thought I was saying one thing but it was another.

I don’t want to give the impression that all was well 24/7. The day we were supposed to check into the cabin we arrived after the sun set. Of course we got hopelessly lost in back-country roads, up in the mountains, no houses within sight, no useful map, snow on the road, and no snow tires. After about two hours I suggested we call AAA and ask what to do. She heard AARP and thought that was the stupidest thing she had heard in a long time.

Finally we found a place with cell phone reception and called the company that managed the cabins. A sweet young guy talked us down to the road we were supposed to be on. Except we were twenty miles away from the turn off and he thought we were just a few yards from it. Eventually that got straightened out. Boy did we sleep well that night!

I was happy that I walked more than twice as much as I do on a good day at home, even with the altitude and getting out of breath. I hadn’t walked in snow for twenty or thirty years, and I could do it without losing my balance. Except one time, when I misjudged the steepness of a little slope, my weight was too far back, and I fell over backwards. I rolled to the right, so I didn’t hit my head, but my ankle is badly bruised. That’s the risk you take when you go bravely into an unfamiliar situation saying, “Of course I can do it” rather than, “I’m too scared. You go and have fun and I will stay here in the car and be bored.”

In case you hadn’t guessed, I want to go back next year.

PS I wanted to include pictures, but I am working on Windows and have no idea how to do anything. I’ll show you some fantastic pictures when I get home.

Lost in Space

A couple of things I wrote about in “Lost in Time” belong here, too. Forgetting where I put my favorite suitcase resulted in it’s being heaven knows where, just plain gone. I guess time and space go hand in hand.

I want to organize this post around not being in my body. I used to think that meant that I feel my consciousness living just behind my right shoulder and that all my dreams and memories are from that point of view. I quizzed some non-abused people and they remember things from the point of view of right behind their eyes, so the scene look the way it did when they saw it. Weird!

My therapist explained no, that’s interesting, but not being in your body means you aren’t aware of where your body is in space, in relation to other things. That explained why I fell so often and why I bumped into walls and furniture. Walking into a wall was embarrassing, but tables left nice big bruises.

It also explained why I could recognize landmarks, but not be able to put them in sequence or judge the distance between them. Driving to the supermarket for the millionth time, I never knew whether the pink house came before or after the white church. I knew I had to turn right, but where? Everybody was amazed at how easily I got lost and how often that seven minute drive turned into a good half hour.

About ten years ago I learned how to stop walking into things. I spoke out loud to myself and said things like, “We are getting close to the table.” “Watch where you put your feet — there is a cat around here someplace.” It helped a lot. Now that I use a walker, I’m even safer in the apartment because it’s the walker that hits things, not my body.

Only now am I learning to orient myself in larger spaces. When I go to make that right turn, I look at the houses across the street, describe them to myself, and tell myself it’s time to make the right turn. For some reason, I have to say it out loud. The sound of my voice breaks the trance I am in and focuses my attention on the outside world.

I think I have figured out how this came to be. When I was a kid, I often knew that I was safe, for the moment, where I was, but I never knew what awaited me in the next room or at the end of a car ride. In order to protect myself from anticipated harm, I put myself in a trance before I needed to. I learned to turn my attention inward rather than to my surroundings. I did it so often that it’s my normal state. (By the way, this fear of what might be around the corner explains my agoraphobia, too.)

This is normal every-day stuff. I know that others get lost in much larger spaces, even other dimensions. But I don’t time-travel or go to the astral plane, or if I do, I don’t recognize or remember it. I imagine that offers a whole new realm to get lost in. And flashbacks are a special way of returning to prior time and past surroundings. If you have one foot in the present and know that you are having a flashback, you are really in two places at once. That’s amazing when you think about it!